5 Tips for a Successful Online Job Search

Before the rise of the Internet, the first place you would go to find out what jobs were available was your local newspaper’s classified ads. Now, of course, you can see all manner of jobs, from any kind of employer, with a simple search on job boards like Monster or aggregation sites, such as Indeed and SimplyHired. And, with some quick clicking, you can apply to scores of jobs in an evening.

Unfortunately, many people feel that this is the way you are supposed to conduct a job search to the exclusion of everything else. When you approach it this way, you are in for a long and frustrating experience with diminished chances for success.

Recently, a person complained that he’s been diligently applying to jobs on Indeed. He claimed to be selective and, over the last several months, sent out more than 80 applications. “So, what’s your response been to all this activity?” he was asked.

“Nada. Zilch. Zero … not a single interview,” he reported with a marked sense of exasperation.

People often don’t realize how great the odds are stacked against job seekers for virtually every online advertisement. Recruiters and human resources screeners commonly see hundreds upon hundreds of resumes submitted in response to ads. Of those, only a scant few will result in a conversation. Yet, on the employer side, it’s not uncommon to find someone to hire by placing an advertisement.

Put differently, you have only a small likelihood of success with any given response you make to an online job posting because each application is, statistically speaking, like flipping a coin. No matter how many jobs you apply to, you’ll still have the same odds – one in however many scores or hundreds of applicants reply.

At this point, you might throw up your hands in despair. Don’t. There are things that you can do to increase your odds of being chosen for a position that fits you well. Here are some strategies that are often most effective.

1. Take time to build your network, both in person and online. Attend networking events, participate in your professional organizations and introduce yourself to people. Practice the art of small talk. Understand that, with every new acquaintance you make, you enlarge your network.

2. Narrow your applications to a relatively few positions. Don’t bother with a lot of “Hail Marys” for which you clearly aren’t well suited to meet the employer’s needs. Instead, look for positions where you can add value to employers.

3. Do your research before you reach out to the employer. Check out the company in the news or on LinkedIn. Figure out its challenges, and how you can add value with your skills and experience. Use this research as you make your case for being considered in your cover letter.

4. Figure out how you can network your way into the company before you apply. You can use LinkedIn to find people in the company you can proactively reach out to for informational interviews. Don’t ask for help at the onset, but instead spend some time building a relationship and make yourself the first one to offer help before you ask for it.

5. Ask your contact if the company has an employee referral program. If so, would he be interested in forwarding your resume to the right person? Remember that, if you’ve already submitted your resume to the company, the employee won’t get credit for your application, and that makes a big difference.

Remember the old story of the tortoise and the hare. Slow but sure can win the race. The same is true with your job hunt. Go for fewer job applications, but do a thorough job of researching each and making a clear argument for how and why you can add value to the company. It’s tedious work, but in the end, your chances of success will skyrocket.

Happy hunting!

Personal SWOT Analysis for Bellevue Job Seekers

Many professionals recognize the value of a SWOT analysis for their companies. Understanding a business’ Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats gives leaders a new perspective on what the organization does well, where its challenges lie and which avenues to pursue. However, few people realize that a personal SWOT analysis can do the same for an individual in pursuit of his or her career goals.

The SWOT analysis was first devised as a business tool in the 1960s by business icons Edmund P. Learned, C. Roland Christensen, Kenneth Andrews and William D. Guth. In 1982, Heinz Weihrich took it one step further, constructing a 2-by-2 matrix to plot out the answers to the four key questions for easy comparison. Strengths and Weaknesses were across the top, and Opportunities and Threats in the bottom row. This remains the most common and effective way to conduct the analysis.

Most professionals look at their strengths and weaknesses, a SWOT analysis takes things a step further by forcing people to think about the external factors that bear heavily on the health and direction of their careers. Looking at the quadrants together can be a creative way to think about where you are in your career and the directions you could take,

SWOT can also help people become the best versions of themselves. Self-assessment is a key activity in striving to achieve a sense of one’s personal best. The SWOT analysis exercise ignites an enhanced awareness of what one brings to the table in a balanced light of both advantages and challenges. Organizations roll out elaborate schemes to remain competitive as well as innovative. Why wouldn’t individuals want to achieve the same level of excellence for themselves?”

To conduct a personal SWOT analysis, ask yourself questions about each of the four areas being examined. Answer honestly. Honesty is crucial, or the analysis will not generate meaningful results. With that in mind, try to see yourself from the standpoint of a colleague or a bystander, and view criticism with objectivity.

It’s also important to imagine the potential of what you can become,

“Don’t limit yourself to the strengths that you’re currently exhibiting in your job.  List all of your strengths, even the ones that have been dormant for a while. And pay particular attention to the things that you have that your peers don’t — how are you different, unique and special?”

Begin by identifying your strengths. These are the traits or skills that set you apart from others. Questions to ask include:

  • What are you good at naturally?
  • What skills have you worked to develop?
  • What are your talents, or natural-born gifts?
  • How strong is your network of connections?
  • What do other people see as your strengths?
  • What values and ethics set you apart from your peers?

The next step is weaknesses.This part examines the areas in which you need to improve and the things that will set you back in your career. Questions to consider include:

  • What are your negative work habits and traits?
  • Does any part of your education or training need improving?
  • What would other people see as your weaknesses?
  • Where can you improve?
  • What are you afraid to do or most likely to avoid?
  • What negative feedback about your personality or work habits have you received?

For the opportunities section, look at the external factors you can take advantage of to pursue a promotion, find a new job or determine a career direction. Questions to examine include:

  • What is the state of the economy?
  • Is your industry growing?
  • Is there new technology in your industry?
  • Is there new demand for a skill or trait you possess?
  • What are the biggest changes occurring in the current business environment?
  • Have customers or co-workers given you feedback about new services you could provide, or ways to improve your manner?

Finally, look at any threats to your career growth. This part takes into account the external factors that could hurt your chances to attain your goals. The factors to take into account include:

  • Is your industry contracting or changing directions?
  • Is there strong competition for the types of jobs for which you are best suited?
  • Do your weaknesses inhibit your ability to rise in your company or change jobs?
  • What is the biggest external danger to your goals?
  • Are there any new professional standards you cannot meet?
  • Are there any new technology, education or certification requirements that will impede your progress?

Finding the necessary objectivity to conduct a personal SWOT analysis can be a challenge. For this reason you are advised to invite others who know you well to review your ideas for accuracy. We often cannot see how we come across in our interactions with others, so their feedback is valuable.

In some cases, you may be well-served by getting the help of a professional. We encourage job seekers to work with professionals certified in various assessment instruments, or to research assessment tools online that can provided measured feedback for consideration.

Once you have filled out the matrix, there are two ways to analyze the information and build a strategy: matching or converting.

Matching means connecting two of the categories to determine a course of action. For example, matching strengths to opportunities shows you where to be aggressive and take action. On the other hand, matching weaknesses to threats exposes those areas you should work on or situations to avoid, and lets you know where to be more defensive of your position.

To convert is to turn negatives into positives — in other words, converting your weaknesses into strengths, or threats into opportunities. This can mean growing a skill set through education, or finding a creative way to feature a weakness as a strength. For instance, if you are very outgoing, working in an introspective and isolated environment may not suit you very well. But if you can work toward a position, such as sales, in which you interact with many people, that weakness turns into a strength and could allow you to excel.

Once your personal SWOT analysis is complete, it is crucial to follow through on the insights you uncovered.

SWOT analysis can fail to be effective if it is simply treated as a ‘laundry list,’ without any tie-in to how the elements identified in the analysis can be put into play for the individual carrying out the assessment. For example, how can the identified strengths move the needle in the endeavor to achieve a key goal? Or how can one navigate a potential threat once it is identified, so as to ensure no ground is lost?”

“The best outcome is to take action and succeed in the opportunities you have identified.  This can benefit you on a personal and professional level, and set you apart from your peers and colleagues.

Those who want to conduct their own SWOT analyses can visit numerous career sites providing online templates and further information:

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